Like a bat out of hell…..

June 1, 2010.  I was surprised when my Aunt Mary decided to embark on another camping trip with me.  It had been two years since our first outing and since it resulted in a flood, I wasn’t surprised it took her some time to muster up the courage to go again.

An avid bird lover, she wanted to go to Brown County to hear the Whipporwill.  Which if  you’ve ever heard one you would ask, “why!”  They sing at night the most annoying repeating call of ‘whipporwill’.  In fact, the first time Katie heard it she thought it was a car alarm. 

So we return to Brown County during the week and therefore have our choice of sites.  And for me, it’s like being at Dunkin Donuts and trying to pick just one.  I show off my skill of backing up the camper since I have now a couple of years under my belt and a truck that makes it much easier.  The set-up goes without a hitch  (pathetic, I know) and I even put out the awning. 

And so when nightfall comes we hear the first call of the whipporwill.  It is distant, but familiar.  Success.  I finally showed Mary a rewarding camping experience, now maybe she will go with me again.  But no.  I can guarantee that she will not. 

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a noise.  A rustling type of noise.  And I wonder, is Mary getting up to go to the bathroom?  And then I look up and see a bat.  Yes a bat!  Inside the camper! Right by my head!  Flapping. Flapping Flapping.  And so I do what any normal person would.  Freak out!  I yell to Mary “there’s a bat in here’ and she says, ‘are you sure?’  Thinking back, I wonder why she doubted me.  Did she not hear the utter terror in my voice?  Was I sure?  Ya! 

To anyone watching, and luckily there wasn’t, we must have looked ridiculous to say the least.  Mary demands to use the bathroom and wants a light.  And I can only think – no!  Not a light.  But she is insistent for fear of falling.  And it is poor form to deny a senior access to a toilet or a light.  So of course, the light comes on and the bat starts flying frantically back and forth in the camper.  I scream and cover my head as anyone knows a bat’s goal in life it to get tangled up in your hair.  Mary finally turns off the light and finishes her business.  And now she can think clearly and has a plan.  And one thing I have learned about Mary – she is one smart woman.  The plan – we’ll go outside – she’ll hold open the door and I will hold the flashlight in hopes it will fly out.  It takes me about 10 seconds before I realize I have the raw end of this deal.  So I improvise and lay the fashlight on the ground.  Turn it on.  And run.  All my years of lighting firecrackers have finally paid off.

We patiently wait until it flies out and we run in.  Shewww!  But now with the immediate danger out of the way, the thoughts creep in.  How in the world did it come in?  And the realization that I cannot blog this.  This is an amazing story but I will only be able to tell co-workers and Brian.  No one will ever want to camp with me again if this gets out.  Second comes the replay of the flapping wings at my head.  Think of something else.  And so my mantra is ‘kitchen, kitchen, kitchen.  Think of your kitchen!’  I sleep very little.  Mary too I’m sure –  except when the whippoorwill returns and is ‘singing’ loudly.  Somehow she sleeps right through it. 

So the next night, I am more prepared.  I zip up the screens around me and keep the fan on.  I know any little noise I will hear will only freak me out and if I am going to get any sleep, I need the fan.  Surprisingly I do go right to sleep until Mary wakes me at 1am saying, ‘Joyce, the bat’s in here again.’ And so my counter-terrorism training kicks in and I say, ‘we know the drill’.  I put on my shoes.  Put my hood over my head. Grab the flashlight and out we go.  Mary is so quick and she runs out without her robe on.  (Who knew?)  Only this time we don’t see him leave.  We wait.  No bat.  I hit the sides of the camper.  No bat.  Finally we give up and conclude that we missed his departure. 

But when one finds themselves with a bat two nights in a row, logically, their odds are so bad that the only alternative is to abandon the camper and opt for the truck.  And that’s exactly what we did.  But trucks are not meant to sleep in and so I didn’t.  Mary once more had a plan that we would return to the camper in daylight and try and sleep then.  So as we return to it at 6am her phone rings.  (no it’s not the batphone).  It’s her daughter letting us know that big storms are headed our way with 60 mph winds.  I check the radar and see a big red blob.  In less than 60 minutes me and my 75 year old Aunt have packed up the camper and like a bat out of hell are gone.  Sadly I wanted to have my morning coffee so I have this contingency plan that we will pack up and then sit and enjoy some coffee before it rains.  Well, as luck would have it the rain hits just as I hitch up the trailer.  So off we go.   And with one last stop at the dumpster to rid of our trash, I end up dumping the coffee all over the floor.  Dang it and it was high end Dunkin Donuts!

PS – I have already called Matt at Funtime campers to ask if he has ever heard of this.  Yes.  Once.  20 years ago.  It’s very rare. Yet I’m batting a thousand??!!!

I plan to look at travel trailers next week.   So much for my purist values. An airstream would be a nice option at this point.

Groundhogs and Bats

Sounds like a meal with the Clampits but it actually describes my final camping experiences in 2009.  I journeyed to Pokagon State Park in August and was extremely disappointed.  The Pokagon I remembered just wasn’t the same.  It was not the nice secluded spots that I remembered when I was 8.  Which may be why my memory was off.  And certainly I did not remember groundhogs.  But there they were.  Chubby and waddling around eating grass. 

My last camping trip was back at Quabache State Park with the Kirbys.  And like the last time we road bikes to the Hardees summit.  We even took a very late ride and were freaked out by the bats that kept trying to attack.  Okay, maybe they weren’t attacking but you try riding your bike in the dark with bats overhead and see if you feel comfortable. 

But beyond bikes were Brad’s kayaks.  Which overall turned out to be the highlight of my summer – kayaking. 

The Beverly Hillbillies

I had never kayaked before and so my first journey was in Linton with  Hannah and Brad on one of the lakes in Green County.  It was extremely windy and hot.  So much so that I wasn’t sure if my wet clothes were from water or humidity.  The experience was amazing.  Gliding on the water.  Quietly cutting a path into the lake.  It was so very cool that I immediately wanted one of my own. 

Me and Hannah

 The following weekend I joined Brad again only this time we journeyed to other lakes trying to recall the fishing holes our dads took us to when we were kids. Of course Brad is older and so his recollection was better than mine.  In fact, Brad remembers so many stories that I wonder if I was even there. 

 You would never know unless you were able to go into the tight areas a kayak can traverse that so many lakes in Green County connect.  So ducking under limbs we went from one lake to another.  We saw a wood duck land in a tree.  I guess that’s why they call them wood ducks.  I wonder why then are they a duck?  Do they drown?  Maybe my ‘google reader’ daughter can find the answer.  

And so the camping season ended sooner that I would have liked with Labor Day Weekend being the last trip out.  Most of September and October were filled with rainy cold weekends.  Clearly during the last two months the best weather we had was when Brian and I winterized the camper.  It was 70 degrees and beautiful in November.  The moment wasn’t lost on Brian either. 
Looking back it rained on every camping trip I took.  But the last one I outsmarted the rain.  I was so tired of coming home and cranking back up a wet camper to allow to dry that on the Sunday of Labor Day I decided to cut loose early since rain was forecasted.  Besides I had camped by myself since every one else had plans.  I thought it might be freaky going alone especially since Brad and Brent were in the other campground loop a good distance away.  But I really didn’t get scared.  Okay, once I did.  I was just falling asleep when I heard this loud growl.  Well, actually it wasn’t a growl but rather a snore.  Imagine my surprise when I jump up with a start, looking left and right only to realize it was me.   

So I pack up and get ready to head out when my sister calls to say she is coming.  And spending the night.  “In the camper?” I ask.  Well thankfully Jane was cool with my plan B and so we put up the tent.  It rained.  It leaked.  And so it was fitting that my last camping experience of 2009 was rainy and wet.  But I didn’t have to dry out the pop-up.

Jane and Brad

The 4th

July 4, 2009

Katie and I head back to Shakamak to spend the Holiday camping.  I usually try to avoid State Parks during Holidays, but this time it just worked out so well.  It was the best time I believe I ever had as an adult.  I remember another time when I was a kid and there was a cute boy with shaggy dark hair there too.  I can’t recall his name, but I do remember Sybil lighting the backyard up so we could play crouquet  in the dark.  For most of my youth and even teenage years I would usually spend the week in Linton between my birthday and the 4th.  Sybil and Annalee often had someone they wanted me to meet.  The bagger at the grocery; a neighbor; a boy at church.  Sometimes they were spot on.  Other times not.  But obviously, none stuck.

This time, as the standard is, we played cards.  We had two tables set up for  eurchure and Sybil and Hannah were the champions.    We played spoons to the death.  (It was ugly) And of course we ate!

Katie & Sybil

Katie & Sybil

And as things seem to fall into place when you look back later, this was one of those times.  Our dear Sybil had a stroke a few days later and has been paralyzed on her right side since.  I have visited her often and when I asked her if I am her favorite when we were alone – she said ‘yes’.  But when I asked when others were there, she said, ‘well, you’re all my favorites’.  But I know deep down, I am her favorite.  And anyone else will tell you the same.  She made us all feel like we were. 

Sybil wins!

Sybil wins!

Katie will tell you that she made the best Chicken & Noodles.  And for me she always made Oatmeal Cake.  She taught me how to use a pogo stick.  And made me memorize Bible verses. And she always wanted to play cards!  She was always laughing and saying ‘welllll’ or ‘land’s sake’.  And if she knew she was out there on the web she would probably say, ‘oh for pitty’s sake!”

She Couldn’t Weisel Out of My Birthday

June 2008

As I have previously admitted to, I use my birthday to get things.   Not gifts but rather a “guilt trip”.   So this year is no exception and I plan the trip to Shakamak and Jane does her sisterly duty and accompanies me. 

The cool thing about Shakamak is that it is very near my Aunt Sybil’s. (And no she doesn’t have multiple personalities).  Although she did call herself “House” since she regularly uses a cane now.  So since my birthday comes right before the fourth of July when the town of Linton goes all out with its Freedom Festival, it’s nice spending time there in what is the “calm before the storm.”

Annie, Sybil, Jane (and me)

Annie, Sybil, Jane (and me)

I will admit two days were very hot.  Which usually in southern Indiana around the 4th of July, it will be.  In fact, Jane and I spent one of those at the campground pool.  We rode bikes gently to generate a breeze, and when it got too bad, headed for the Mexican restaraunt in town.  Only this year while we were eating and before the sombrero adorns my head, Katie calls me to give me the news flash that Michael Jackson died.    Why musicians die on my birthday is beyond me, but a trend seems to have begun. 

But for whatever reason, I decide to check and see if Shakamak has sites available over the fourth.  I was sure they wouldn’t.  But they did.  At least in primitive.  And so, I actually had the foresight to reserve from then until the 5th of July so that I wouldn’t have to take my camper home, only to return a few days later.  

So before we put the camper down and move it to the primitive spot, we see a mink!  Well at the time we had no idea what it was.  Just a blank weisely looking critter that scampered across the road.  But because Jane is the internet search wizard that she is, she found out what it was. 

So like I said.  This is the year of the animal.  And this trip it was a Mink!

Leaning….and batty

Early June 2009, is another trip to McCormick’s Creek.  Yes, I know, why would I attempt to camp there again after tornados and floods.  But why do people climb Everest?  Because it’s there.

So once more I am camping with Jean and Katie.  I selected a site I had put a checkmark beside on the campground map when I was there before.   I felt fairly confident it would be okay.  I realized later that the checkmark was in the early days when I was looking for seclusion and had not always looked for a level site. 

The camper has legs that you crank up to help level it.  But no matter how much we tried, it just wasn’t cutting it.  So off we went in search of a Lumber Yard for wood.  You’d think that would be fairly simple.  But it was not.  Eventually we find one and I ask for a “block of wood”.  We don’t carry “blocks of wood” they said.  Really?  Then finally my years of helping my dad in the garage panned out and I said, “you don’t have 2 x 4s?”  Oh yes!  They had THAT.  To the men in that lumber yard in Spencer I must have seemed quite blonde.  To me, they seemed like morons. 

So back to the camper we go with wood in hand.  It scarcely made a dent.  So the entire weekend everything kept sliding left.  Food.  Dishes.  Me.  And let me just say that navigating my toilet with the camper tipped wasn’t very easy.  I mean, think about it.  When you are home and wake up to stagger to the bathroom it’s hard enough.  Try it leaning 15 degrees.

As with the last trip to Brown County it stormed the last night.  (yes it always seems to rain on me.)  And so when we cranked down the camper, out flew a bat!  He had tucked himself under the roof where he must have thought he would be safe.  I guess we made him a little “cranky”.

I have never had a bat try and hide under the camper.  But like I said.  This is the year of the animal.

The Year of the Animal

The Spot

The Spot

It’s Memorial Day, 2009.  The time when most people stay home.  Especially if you live in Indianapolis where millions (okay maybe it’s not millions) of race fans converged on your town.

But this year nephew Zack was the driving force in having a family camping trip.  Since he missed out last year on the fun, he was anxious to take advantage of a free weekend and so we headed to Brown County State Park.

As luck would have it the only spots available were by the pit toilet.  And as a rule, that is never a good sign.  However, this time I would say we were blessed.  While other areas were full of kids running about unsupervised and unruly, we were lucky to have older folks around who just wanted to enjoy their television in the comfort of their 5th wheel.  I’m not sure why that is appealing, but it worked for them.  And it worked for us too.

Because I don’t enjoy backing in the camper while others are watching, I prefer to arrive earlier than most.  This time I decided to force Katie to go early and we arrived on Thursday.  It turned out to be so early that the only other person nearby was at the opposite end of the street.  And though I like piece and quiet, the thought of being all alone on the end was a bit unnerving. Oh wait.  I misspoke.  It wasn’t totally peaceful.  Sometime around 9pm we began to hear a strange noise.  Katie thought it sounded like a car alarm.  I thought it was a Mockingbird trying to sound like a car alarm. 

Eventually, I was able to go to sleep but was awaken in the night by scratching noises.  I raised my head to peer outside and was face to face with a raccoon.  He had climbed the tree outside and was doing a great imitation of a peeping Tom.   Have you ever tried to ‘shew’ a raccoon quietly?  It’s not simple.  But eventually he scampers off and I fall back to sleep only to awakened a short while later to the same sound.  Only this time I saw a Koala bear.  No kidding.  However once I truly woke up it turned into two peeping raccoons.

 

Thankfully, the next night the family arrived and I could relax from the fear of peeping raccoons.  But once more the strange Mockingbird/car alarm began around 9pm.  Finally I determined it must be a mockingbird trying to sound like a whipporwill.  Over and over again, ‘whipporwill, whipporwill whipporwill, whipporwill’  Off and on.  All night long.  And again on Saturday.  And again on Sunday.  It was the most annoying sound.  And yet as with most annoying sounds or songs, it gets stuck in your head and you find yourself repeating it.  Outloud.  Kinda like the song I most hate in the world which I even don’t want to type for fear it will also stick….The Lion Sleeps…..  (ugh!)  I don’t even want to finish it.  And as an ironic side note, the person who sang this song died on my birthday in 2008.  And the only reason I know this is that Katie called and informed me.  She is a google head.

Ash, Sam, Jane, Fred & Zack

Ash, Sam, Jane, Fred & Zack

So like I said.  The year of the animal.  Besides the peeping raccon and strange Mockingbird, we also came across a Timber Rattler while hiking.  And from this we learned that my neice Sam will tromple anything in her path if she is determined to flee.  Babies.  The elderly.  She’ll strong arm anyone in her way.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Oh and I did learn from my Aunt Mary that it wasn’t a Mockingbird at all.  When I mimiced the sound for her she said quite longingly, “oh Joyce, that was a whipporwill.”   For years we have driven around lakes in search of this illusive bird she has longed to hear.  So imagine my surprise to learn that what she has been searching for is this annoying unpleasant sound!  She did qualify her statement after my initial exclamation, of “your kidding?” by saying, “not everyone likes to hear them.”  

Right! I’m thinking Aunt Mary has to be the ONLY one who does.

The Perfect Trip (Finally)

October 31 2008

Throughout this year the quest for the perfect camping weekend seemed to be unattainable.  Whether it was obnoxious neighbors, floods, injuries or rain, my vision of the perfect camping trip just didn’t materialize.  Until now.

It was already going to be favorable just being away from home on Halloween.  Although I enjoy seeing the kids dressed up.  I don’t like giving out candy to kids I don’t even know.  And then there is the delimma of determining when to turn out the light before the teenagers who have no business trick-or-treating, start showing up.

So it was with much joy that LJ and I head for Shakamak this last weekend in October.  We selected the small electric area in the mostly primitive campground that has a brand new bathroom facility.  It is so nice.  It looks like a lodge.  No kidding.

The Bathroom!

The Bathroom!

The weather is perfect.  The leaves were at their peak. And the neighbors were quiet and friendly.  (But not too friendly)  The trip was so perfect that LJ persuaded me to call my boss and ask for another day.  And so this Sunday night there are only 4 campers in the entire campground.  it is so quiet it is almost spooky quiet.

Finally.  Near Perfection!

Morning on Lake Shakamak

Morning on Lake Shakamak